posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:00:08 AM
Title: Chasing Arizona
Author: ISLANDGIRL5
Category: Starts out with Liz, but everyone will appear in due time.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to, well, you know who they belong to.
Summary: It's 1876. Liz has run away from home. She doesn't know where she is going or what whe will do. This is her story.
Note: I know the dates and the history aren't correct. The titles and themes just fit.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

chasingarizona
*Made by my friend, Heather, aka LilBluBubble*

CHASING ARIZONA---PROLOGUE

My father has always hated me. Even the mere mention of my name can send him into a rage. I was named after the state I was born in. He never has treated me like a daughter. I guess that's because I'm not. And I guess that's the reason he hates me so much. Because I am a constant reminder of my mother's infidelity. But he is still my father. Even if he doesn't acknowledge me, he's the only one I have ever known.

He's always loved my mother more than life itself. As she has loved him. She stood by him through everything. She was there when he started out as nothing. And she was still there when he became one of the richest railroad tycoons in America. She never left his side. Not even when the going got rough. He would do anything for her. I guess that's why he blinded himself to the fact the she did mess up. If only for one time, she was unfaithful. And I am the only proof of that mistake. I am the only thing of my mother's that doesn't belong to him. That's why he blames me. That's why everything in the world that goes wrong is my fault. Because I was a mistake. An accident. An unwanted child.

The only other person in the world he loved as much as he loved her was their son. My brother. Alexander Dallas Parker. He was born in Dallas. My mother had a weird way of naming us. After places. My father always loved him. Gave him everything. His pride and joy was Alex. The one thing Alex always did that my father never understood, but never questioned out of respect for my mother was love me. I was his little sister. He always protected me. Helped keep me away from my father. Comforted me after I had been beaten. After my father had taken his frustrations out on me, Alex was my only consolation. And he loved me no matter who my father was. Alex and I used to go out on the horses all the time. We loved to play games in the immense fields behind our father's mansion in Texas. That's what we were doing the day he died. Saving me. That was what finally sent my father over the edge.

We had taken the horses out and were riding through the fields when something spooked my horse and I was thrown to the ground. Alex jumped off to come and help me, and noticed that Vilandra, my mare, had raised her front feet in the air and was coming down on me. Alex didn't hesitate. He pushed me out of the way and gave his life for mine. When my father heard, he went crazy. He kept hitting me. Over and over. The look in his eyes was one I had never seen before. There was so much hate and anger there that I was scared to death just looking at him. I did the only thing I could think of. I picked up the poker from the fireplace and hit him back. I knew he wasn't dead. But I also knew that I couldn't be here when he woke up. He would kill me. Finally have his vengeance on me for being the product of my mother's mistake. And for being the reason his only son was dead.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I packed my things and left my only home. I had saved money over the years. Here and there. Whatever I could get my hands on. My father was one of the richest men alive, after all. I had quite a small fortune of my own. And I took it all with me. I don't know where I am going. I don't know what will happen. But I do know one thing. When he wakes up, Jefferey Parker will come after me. I have to write this letter in case he ever finds me. I want people to know what he did.

My name is Arizona Elizabeth Parker. And by the time someone reads this, one of two people will be dead.


[ edited 3 time(s), last at 20-Jul-2002 11:03:12 PM ]
posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:00:58 AM
CHASING ARIZONA
CHAPTER 1

Sheldon, Texas
March 23, 1876

She looked at the letter one last time. She signed it with her name, marked it with her tears. Then she folded it up and put it in an envelope. She put no name on it. She needed it in case anything ever happened to her. She wanted people to know who she was and why she was running from the only home she had ever known. Quietly, she took one last look around her room. The room she had grown up in. The room in which she had spent so many nights crying in Alex's arms.

She tiptoed down the immense hallway, and stopped to look at the picture hanging at the top of the stairs. It was a family photo, that had been painted last Christmas. It was huge and had been very expensive. It was of the four of them. The smiles were bright and unwavering. It showed the perfect family. And it told the perfect lie. As a last thought, she threw her bag down and ran into her room. She took out of a drawer in her bureau a portrait of her and Alex that had been taken for a newspaper article that had run on the Parker family just before Alex's death. In the photo, she and Alex were on their horses, and they were looking at each other laughing at something one of the reporters had said. It was the last time she could remember smiling. She put the picture inside her small jewelry box and took it back to her bag.

She descended the stairs, and tiptoed to the living room. He was still there, not moving, but she could see him breathing. She moved to the parlor where her mother was dozing. That seemed to be all she ever did. She had withdrawn from the world and spent all her time staring out of the window. Sometimes, she would talk to her mother, but it seemed as if she didn't even know anyone was there.

She kissed her mother's forhead. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I love you."

She walked out the door and headed for the stables. As she walked through the doors, one of the stable boys ran over to her.

"Evenin, Miss Liz," he said, tipping his hat at her. "Need me to saddle your mare for you?"

"Yes, Joseph. Please," she said. Her friends had always called her Liz. Arizona seemed like a name meant for someone special. And she was nothing of the sort.

"Taking a trip, Miss?" he asked, noticing the bag in her hand.

"Yes, Joseph. I'm leaving," she smiled at the boy. She had always liked the boy. He was the same age as her, and they had been friends. She had often snuck him food and drinks from the lavish parties her father was always hosting.

When he had finished saddling Vilandra, Joseph stood to the side and helped Liz secure her bags. He pulled his hat off of head as she turned to speak to him.

"Joseph, you take care of yourself, ya hear?" she said.

"Yes ma'm. I'm awful sorry to see you go," he said.

Liz smiled as she climbed on the horse and started to ride away. She turned around as a last thought. "Joseph, if my father comes to you, you tell him you never saw me, understand? Tell him you came in and found my horse already gone."

"Yes miss," he said. He waved at her as she rode off into the sunset.


As Liz was riding past the Evans home, she stopped momentarily and looked at the house.
Isabel Evans and Liz had never gotten along. Isabel was always jealous of Liz and all the money and fame her family had. Max Evans was a different story. Max and Liz had been the closest of friends when they were younger. Max was a year older than Liz, but their sense of adventure had made them close friends. , Their houses were only a mile away from each others, and they would spend hours on hours playing in the fields and near the river. They had been together every minute of every day when they weren't at home. They shared everything and did everything together. The one thing Max never knew about was how Liz's father had beat her. She was too ashamed to tell him. She was afraid he would hate her ifhe knew that she wasn't really a Parker. Her father had convinced her she was a freak. And that if anyone ever knew, noone would love her. So she never told anyone. Instinctively, Liz reached for the thing gold chain and the precious treasure that was at the end of it. She could still remember the day Max had given it to her. It was the day she realized she loved him. It was a little over a year ago. It was the night of her 16th birthday.

*FLASHBACK*

"So, Happy Birthday," Max said.

"Thanks," she said smiling at him. They were sitting on a rock at the edge of the river watching the sun set. They had done it so much when they were younger, but as they got older, time seemed to slip by too fast to have time to play.

Liz felt a shiver run down her spine. Max stood up and took off his jacket. He slipped it around her shoulders, and let his arm rest around her back. He couldn't help but watch her. Never before had he noticed how beautiful she was. How her long brown hair fell like silk down her back

"Seems like we never see each other anymore," Max said.

"Yeah, I know. It's just busy, I guess," Liz said.

"I miss you," Max whispered.
Liz turned to look at him and was instantly swept up in the deep ocean of amber that was his eyes. "You do?" she questioned.

Max didn't answer her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet bag. "This is for you," he said.

Liz took the small bag and opened it. Inside was a small ring with an amber stone set in the middle of it. Liz gasped. It was beautiful. It was so exquisite. And rare. And it was from max.

"Max-"

"I thought you might like it. It reminded me of you. It was just so. . .pretty."

Liz took the ring and slipped it onto her right hand. She held up her hand and looked at the stone.

"Thank you, Max," she said.

"It's a token of friendship. I want you to know how special you are to me, Liz," he said.

With that, Max leaned down and brought his lips to meet hers. It was just a brush of the lips. But it left them both aching for more. And it made Liz realize that Max Evans had stolen her heart.

"I have to go," Max said. "Happy Birthday, Arizona," he said. He was the only one that ever called her that. It just seemed so right coming from his mouth. It made her feel important.

He kissed her forehead. Then he was gone.


A week later, the Troy's moved to town. Max was taken with their daughter, Pamela. Pamela never liked Liz. Was jealous of the fact that Liz and Max were friends. Gradually, they drifted apart. Then one night, Liz received news that her grandmother had died. The only other person in her family that had loved her unconditionally except for Alex. She had laid in her bed and cried for hours. When her father came home, he was drunk and had called for her. He was mad and needed someone to take it out on. Liz knew she couldn't take it this time. If he got her tonight, it would be the end of her.

So she went to the one person she had thought she could count on. Max. When she got to his house, he was with Pamela. She had asked him to come outside, and he had tried to make her go away. When she pleaded with him, he came outside. She needed him to go with her, she didn't want to talk there. But he wouldn't go. He had told her that he was making plans with Pamela to be married. Plans for his future. And they didn't include her. Pamela wouldn't allow it. He didn't have time for her. Liz felt her heart tear into two. Max didn't care about her anymore. The one person who told her would be her friend forever didn't want her around. Not as a friend, not as anything. Hearbroken and rejected, Liz went home. And faced her father.

The pain he inflicted on her that night didn't compare to the damage Max had done on her soul. Liz stayed inside for weeks after that. Letting the bruises heal. Both inside and out. And she never spoke to Max Evans again. She was going to throw his ring away, but never did. It was from the one person in the world she had given her heart to. Even if she had gotten nothing in return. She hated Max Evans. For deserting her when she needed him the most. But couldn't bring herself to let go of the one thing she still had of him. So she had put it on the thin gold chain Alex had given her, and she had never taken it off.


Liz pulled on Vilandra's reigns and urged her down the road. She had to make one more stop before leaving town. She had to tell her cousin, Maria that she was leaving. For Maria was the only person left alive that cared about her.


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:01:40 AM
CHAPTER 2

Liz rode to the Deluca residence and tied Vilandra to a post at the end of the driveway. She walked up to the door and paused before knocking. She smoothed down her dress and tucked her hair into a knot at the back of her neck. She tried to calm her breathing before she knocked. The last thing she wanted to do was clue anyone in that something was wrong. If anyone knew, they might try and stop her from going. Liz took a deep breath and raised her arm to knock on the door. Before she could, she was startled when the door flew open.

"Lizzie!" Maria said, running outside to give her cousin a hug. Liz relaxed when she saw it was Maria at the door.

"I am so glad you are here! This day has been so dreadfully boring. My mother and her new male companion for the week have run off for the week to his family's home somewhere south of here, and I have been cooped up in this house for the last two days! The only people I have even talked to have been-"

Maria stopped talking when she saw the tears forming in Liz's eyes.

Maria stepped outside and led Liz to the swing hanging at the side of the porch. "Liz, sweetie, what's wrong? "

"Maria, I have to leave. I have to go," Liz said tearfully.

"What do you mean? Where are you going? Why?" Maria asked.

"I did it, Maria. I hurt him. Real bad. And I can't be here when he wakes up. He'll kill me. I know he will."

"Who will?"

"My father," Liz whispered. "He'll kill me because Alex isn't here to protect me anymore."

"Liz, what do you mean, you hurt him?"

"He went crazy, Maria. He attacked me. He's a horrible man, he just started hitting me. I grabbed the poker from the fireplace and I hit him. I just left him there. I didn't know what to do," Liz sobbed.

Maria put her arms around Liz's shoulder. Maria was seething inside. She was the only one other than Alex that knew the truth about Liz. She knew everything, right down to they way Jefferey had always treated Liz. And she hated him for it.

"Liz, you can't leave. You have never been away from home except for that one time your parents took you to Dallas. Where will you go, what will you do? You have no money."

"I've been saving. I have a lot of money. And I am going. I have to. I just came to say goodbye."

Maria was quiet for a minute. She knew that it would be unsafe for Liz to leave home by herself. And she also knew that when Liz made up her mind, Liz made up her mind. She couldn't let Liz leave by herself. And she couldn't let Liz stay and face her father's wrath either. There was only one thing she could to.

"Fine," Maria said. "Then I'm going with you."

"Maria! You can't- I mean- I didn't come here to get you to go with me, I just-"

"Liz. You know as well as I do that my mother will never miss me. She'll be off again in a day or two with some guy. If you are gone, then I have noone here. I don't even have any friends left other than you except for Max."

As soon as she mentioned Max's name, Liz's eyes clouded over. Maria knew that Max had always been a sore spot for her cousin. She had never forgiven him after he turned his back on her. Max had been her best friend, and the one time in her life she needed him the most, he hadn't been there for her. And Liz had never forgotten it. She hadn't even spoken to the boy in over a year. Not even after he and Pam Troy cancelled whatever relationship it was they had. Maria had always suspected that the reason Liz never got over the hurt Max caused was because she loved him. But she never asked, and Liz never told. Maria, on the other hand was still friends with Max. Max kept up on how Liz was doing through Maria. He felt bad about the fact that they weren't friends. He never knew the reason Liz had come to him that night, and Maria had never told him. But he had never stopped wishing that he and Liz could still be friends.

"Okay, Maria. But we have to hurry. Please. We have to go quick. And you can't tell anyone"

"I have to go pack some things. Sit here and rest. I'll only be a few minutes."

Liz sighed in agreement and leaned her head back against the porch column as Maria headed back into the house. How had her life come to this? How was it that she now had to run from everything that was familiar to her? She laughed sarcastically to herself when she looked down at her clothes. She was wearing a pale blue dress of the finest fabric money could buy. It was lined with a dark blue hem and had a full skirt. The funny thing was that it was the least nicest piece of clothing she owned. Jeffery Parker made sure that she was dressed in the best. The girl had already ruined his marriage and made his family a mockery. He wouldn't let her ruin his image. Liz never had his love. But she certainly had his money. And everything it could buy. As long as it made him look good.



Once inside the house, Maria stopped to try and figure out what to do. She headed to the back of the house. On the way out of the parlor, she grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled a note on it. She walked out the back door and motioned for the stable boy to come to her.

She handed him the piece of paper. "Take this to the Evans home. Give it to Max. Go the back way, and hurry. It's urgent."

With that, the boy was off to the stable for a horse.


When someone knocked on Max's door, his head jerked up. He realized he must have fallen asleep sitting at his desk.

"Master Evans," the boy said. "Miss Maria said to get this to you right away." The boy handed the note to Max and was gone.


Liz is here. We have to leave. She's in trouble. Leaving soon. We need your help. Please hurry. Maria.

Max felt his heart flip flop. Maria was his closest friend. Well, at least she was after Liz and he stopped speaking. And no matter what she thought of him, Max still thought of Liz as his best friend. He didn't know what kind of trouble she was in, but he wasn't going to let Maria and Liz leave. Not without him, anyway. He left a quick note for his sister, and headed out the door towards the Deluca residence.



Maria stepped out the back door and saddled her horse, Zan. She tied her bags to his saddle, and headed to the front of the house to meet Liz. She kept looking around, waiting to see if Max would come. She had sent him the note because she didn't know what else to do. She was scared to think of what Liz was going to do when she found out that she had told Max. But she was even more scared to think of what could happen if she and Liz left out on their own. Two girls out on their own. It could be dangerous. And the west was no place to play with danger. Especially if your name was Arizona Parker. Everyone in America knew that name. So she had to tell Max. She had to tell someone.

When Maria got to the front porch, Liz was already standing up. "Maria, what took you so long?"

"I had to umm. . .pack."

"Maria. If you don't want to go with me, I'll understand. You don't have to leave. You have nothing to run from."

"Liz, honey. I am not running from anything. I am running with something. I will not let you go off to who knows where alone." She handed Liz a small bag. "Here. Put this on her. I've got a lot already. It's just some apples, bread and cheese. We might need it."

Liz smiled, and walked over to Maria's horse. "Thanks. Maria. I'm glad I don't have to do this alone. I'm glad there's at least one person left in this world who cares about me. I guess it's just you and me now."

Liz and Maria spun around when they heard hoofbeats come thundering up behind the house. Maria held her breath. She knew she could count on him. Slowly, she turned to Liz for her reaction.

Liz was frozen. Her eyes were wide with fear. Anger. Sorrow. Maria could see the emotions flickering across her eyes. For a minute, she thought she was going to bolt and run.

Max got off his horse. He nodded at Maria. Then he walked to Liz.

Liz felt her breathing get heavier. She felt like her head was spinning. Max was here. Max. Her best friend. Max. The one that had pushed her away. The one who told her he had no use for her. Yet here he was. Liz looked at Maria accusingly. She knew Maria had somehow told him they were leaving. And now he would try to stop them

"Hello, Arizona," he whispered. It was the first time he had spoken to her in over a year. Since he had pushed her away. Since he had lost his best friend in the whole world.

Liz saw the sky spin. Max's arms shot out as he saw Liz sway to the side. Then everything went black.


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:04:07 AM
CHAPTER 3



When Liz woke up, she saw Maria in her face, waving something funny smelling under her nose. For a second, she didn't know what had happened or where she was.

"Maria, what happened?" Liz asked.

"You took one look at Loverboy and passed out," Maria whispsered, gesturing towards the trees where Max was watching the two girls with a worried expression. "Now we better hurry up and get a move on before that beast you call your father wakes up. Come on girl, up." Maria was helping Liz to her feet.

Liz looked over to the trees and her eyes widened when she saw Max standing there. "Maria! What did you do? I asked you not to tell anyone! And you told him of all people! What are you thinking?" Liz whispered back.

"Liz. Max is my friend. And believe it or not, he is your friend too. What happened is in the past. Leave it there. Forgive and forget, remember?"

"Maria! You don't even know what happened. You have no idea what he did to me!"

"Aww, honey, it couldn't have been so bad as to push the boy out of your life forever. I mean you two were like two peas in a pod growing up. Do you really want to hate him? Cause I think somewhere deep down, you still care for him."

Liz stood up, and straightened out her dress. She looked at Maria. "It doesn't matter if I want to hate him or not, things just turned out that way. And it is all his fault. And what is he doing here?"

Maria took a deep breath. "He's going with us."

"What!" Liz asked, a bit too loud.

"Shh, Liz. Be quiet. Look I knew you would get upset. But it's not safe. You know it, and I know it. You are Arizona Parker, for goodness sake!! What if someone out there saw you and wanted your money? We need a guy with us. For our own sake! And if you don't let him come with, then I won't let you go."

Liz looked at Maria and knew she was fighting a losing battle. She didn't know anyone who had ever argued with Maria Deluca and won. Come to think of it, she didn't know many people who would actually argue with Maria. The girl was impossibly stubborn. Liz narrowed her eyes at Maria.
"Maria Deluca," Liz said. "I am not going to argue with you simply because I don't have the time, and because my life depends on it. But this is not the end of this discussion!"

Liz stomped angrily over to Vilandra and proceeded to double check her bags.

Max ran past Liz, glancing in her direction. He ran to Maria and stopped in front of her.

"What did she say?" He asked, running a hand through his dark hair.

"She said that we better go. She has got to get out of here, Max. I need your word that you will go and ask no questions. Not until Liz is ready. She will speak to you eventually, but you have to give her time."

"I have to apologize to her Maria. I don't blame her for hating me. I don't. But I have to tell her the truth."

"Of course you do, Max. And you'll get your chance. All in due time. Now I suggest you go over there and get on that horse of yours and follow us."

Max turned to walk back to his horse. He paused for a moment when he got to where Liz was still checking her horse. He wanted to badly to talk to her. But he knew her well enough to know that if he tried to push it, he would push her away. And she was already so far away from him. He sighed and walked past her. He never noticed her eyes follow him to his horse.


Liz got on Vilandra, Maria mounted Zan, and Max climbed atop his horse, Rath. The three teenagers disappeared into the shadows. They were running from secrets. Running into a world that held some of its own.



Hours later, Jefferey Parker moaned and opened his eyes to see his celing spinning. He raised his head, but immediately plopped it back down. What was wrong with him? Why did his head hurt so much. And where was everyone? Why was his house so quiet? He looked towards the hallway, and that's when it hit him. Liz had come running into that hallway not long ago. To tell him that Alex was dead. His son. The apple of his eye. The only one of his children that was truly his. She had come in, he had hollered at her, and she had- She had hit him! The last thing he rememered is seeing her reach for the fireplace poker. That miserable child had hit him! With a renewed energy, and vengeance gleaming in his eyes, he raised himself off the ground and ascended the staircase.

When he got to her room, he threw open the door and stomped angrily inside. He went into her dressing area, and to the vast closet inside.

"Where are you?!" he screamed.
When he saw the clothes thrown aside and astray, his temper flared even higher. She had run away. She had hit him and run. But she would not get far. He would track her down. Once and for all, he would rid himself of her.



"Joseph!" Mr. Parker screamed, heading into the stable. Joseph leapt up from his small bed in the bedroom at the corner of the immense stable. He stumbled out into the stables, and saw a very angry Jefferey Parker holding a lantern at Vilandra's stall.

"Where is she?" He demanded.

"She's gone, sir. I came in earlier today and she was gone. I figured Miss Liz had taken her out for the evening," Joseph managed to say. He had never seen Mr. Parker so angry. He wondered what Liz had done to make her father so mad.

Jeffery turned on his heels and ran outside. Liz couldn't have gone far. Even if she had gotten very far, she doesn't know where she is going. She had never been away from home before. It would be easy to track the girl down. But it would have to wait until morning. Sunrise was in a few hours. Jefferey knew that if the went knocking in doors at this time of night, it would be all the more shocking to people. He couldn't have people figuring out why Liz had gone, even if noone around knew. He couldn't risk it. It could ruin everything he had worked so hard for. He would wait until sunrise and simply go ask questions. First stop, Evans residence. Then the Deluca home. After that, he would just go wherever he could. He was going to find Liz. And she was going to pay.



Liz turned over and saw Maria fast asleep beside her. A little ways back, she saw Max's sleeping form and felt a twitch in her heart. When she had seen Max yesterday, she hadn't been in the least bit prepared for what seeing him would do to her. It had opened up so many wounds that she had fought hard to keep hidden.

She got up and went to sit in front of the fire. They had found a small alcove in the trees near a small lake. They had stopped for the night and decided to rest there. Not only did they need to stop, but the horses needed a rest to. They had run for hours. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them tightly. How she wished Alex were there. He was just what she needed to block her from the pain that her life had so often brought her. He was her escape. And now, she had noone. Just Maria. The tears started to form in her eyes, and eventually started to fall freely from her cheeks. She closed her eyes and was assaulted with the memories of Alex's death.


FLASHBACK

"Liz! I'm going to get you!" Alex said, laughing.

"Alex! Come on! I never beat you! You must be getting old!"

Liz hunched down and urged Vilandra to go faster. She snuck a look behind her and saw Alex gaining on her steadily. When she turned around, she remembered Vilandra being spooked and next thing she knew, she was flying through the air. She landed on her knees, and was standing up when Alex came running at her. It had all happened so fast. He was saying something to her and flailing his arms, but she couldn't hear him. It was like everything was going too slow. He ran to her and pushed her out of the way. She had landed on the ground, and turned to see Alex's crumpled body laying at Vilandra's feet.

"Alex?" Liz asked. "Alex? Alex answer me!" Liz cried. She reached his side and touched his hand. His body shuddered, but he didn't answer her.

"Alex?" she whispered. She touched his face and turned him over. She saw the thin trickle of blood coming from his mouth. His eyes were open, and she saw them cloud over. She sat down and put his head in her lap. "Alex, it's gonna be okay. I'm going for help."

Alex reached his hand up and brushed her cheek. "I saved you," he whispered. "I saved you."
Then he shuddered one last time. His eyes went blank and his hand fell from her cheek.

"Alex?" Liz said. "Alex! Alex!" she screamed. He wasn't answering her. "Alllllleeeeexx!" she hollered. He didn't move. Liz shook him and cried and hollered and screamed, and didn't stop until strong arms from behind grabbed her shoulders. It was the neighbor, who had heard her cries and come to see what was wrong. Silently, she stood back and cried as he looked over Alex. When he turned around, she waited for an answer, but she saw it in his eyes. Alex was dead.

"Nooooooo!" she screamed. She ran back to Alex's body and dropped to her knees. She started hitting him with her fists, soaking his shirt and her dress with her own tears. "Wake up Alex! Wake up! Right this minute!" She screamed.

The man reached out for her, but she jumped on Vilandra and ran towards home. Once she reached the house, she fell to the ground and lay there crying. How cruel had life been to her? Now the only person in the world who loved her unconditionally was gone. She stumbled up the steps into the house in search of her father.




Max turned over and was awakened by what sounded like muffled sobs. He looked towards the fire and saw her. She was curled into a ball, her head resting in her hands and her body heaving with her quiet sobs. He got up from where he was laying and walked over to her. He reached out and put his arm around her. Liz looked up, her face streaked with tears. She pushed his arm off her shoulder. He looked at her hurt and wanted to comfort her. He didn't know what was wrong with her, but he knew that she needed someone right now. Once more, he reached out and put his arm around her.
"Leave me alone Max!" she cried. She raised her arms to fight with him, but his grip tightened.
She tried to hit at his chest, but her arms were pinned by his. She tried and struggled, but her tears were blurring her vision, and she was too exhausted to fight with him. Finally, she just collapsed in his arms. She laid her head against his chest and let the sobs come freely. Max stroked her hair and just let her cry.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 8-Jun-2002 11:04:58 AM ]
posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:05:51 AM

CHAPTER 4

Maria woke up from a sound sleep and turned to find Liz gone. She turned in the direction that Max had been sleeping in, and didn't see him anywhere either. Starting to panic, Maria turned to grab a blanket to wrap in so she could go look for them when she saw them in front of the fire. She contemplated going to them but decided against it. It had been over a year since Liz and Max had last spoken. Now she was seeking comfort in his arms. It was at least a start. Maria laid back down. Part of her wanted to cry for all the pain Liz was going through. But a part of her couldn't help but want to smile at the sight of Liz and Max together again. Maria fell back to sleep with thoughts of Liz and Max.

Since the day Max and liz had stopped being friends, she had been caught in the middle. Liz had talked to her about Max from the start. She had been caught in the middle . Liz had come to her from the start, broken hearted and upset. She had, after all, lost her best friend. The friend she had grown up with. Shared her child hood with. The one person outside her family that she had thought she could count on. When he was no longer around, she had turned to Maria.

Max had been a different story. It took him a little longer to realize what he had lost. But when he finally did, he had run straight to Maria, because Liz would have nothing to do with him. Both Max and Liz had poured out their frustrations on her, and she had done her best to comfort them both. Each of them knew Maria was close to the other one, and they respected her. She had never been asked to take sides. And for that, she had respected them.

Maria had long suspected that the reason Max and Liz had been so miserable without each other was because deep down, the feelings they had for each other went way past friendship. She had voiced her opinion to each of them, and both had denied it. She never brought it up again, but the suspicions never went away. She was pretty sure she knew Max better, and she was positive she knew her cousin better. She had even once seen the ring that Liz kept hidden on the chain around her neck. And she had seen that ring before. On the finger of Diane Evans.



Liz cried for what seemed like hours, and Max just let her cry. Finally, they both drifted off to sleep, Liz resting her head on Max's chest. Sometime later, Liz woke up when Max shifted beneath her. At first, she had thought she was dreaming, but was mortified when she realized she wasn't. As quietly as she could, Liz slipped out of Max's arms and went to lay back down on her pallet. Seeing Max shiver from the loss of warmth, Liz walked over to Max's stuff, and picked up his blanket. She walked over to him and carefully covered him with the blanket. She didn't want him to wake up.

Liz stood there for a minute and looked at Max. She wasn't ready to talk to him yet. She wondered if she'd ever be. But she sure didn't want him dying of a cold from being out with nothing to keep him warm. Once again, she reached for the ring and the thin chain that held it around her neck. She touched it, and tears once again sprang to her eyes. It was the only two things she had left of the only two men she had ever loved.


When morning came, Max woke up and was surprised to find himself alone. He was sure he had remembered falling asleep with Liz. He looked over at the girls, who had just awoken themselves. He got up and stretched, and walked over to where they were standing.

"Good Morning," he said.

"Morning, Max," Maria said.

Max looked at Liz expectantly, but she just looked at him and nodded in his direction. No smile. No words. Just a nod. Trying to hide the hurt, he looked back at Maria.

"Sorry" she mouthed. Max nodded at her and turned around. Maria knew that Max wanted so badly to apologize to Liz, but she also knew that it was going to take Liz some time before she was ready to forgive him.


Liz wanted to talk to Max, but she was scared. Hurt. Angry. Embarassed. She had spent so long blaming Max for turning her away. She couldn't yet bring herself to forgive him. It had taken everything she had in her to go to him that night. She was finally going to tell him her secret. Who she was. Who she wasn't. How her father treated her. And he hadn't cared enough to listen.

Liz turned and walked off towards the lake, but Maria called to her.

"Hey, Liz wait for me. I need to wash up, change clothes."

Max headed in the direction of the lake also. Maria turned around to him.

"Max, there is a little alcove on this side of the lake," she said, pointing in one direction. "We'll go there. You stay on that side of the lake," she instructed, pointing in the other direction. "That way, we'll all be safe and noones virtue will be at risk."

Max nodded and headed off to his side of the lake to change his clothes and get washed, and Liz and Maria headed off to their side.



Isabel was eating breakfast when she heard someone pound on the front door. She made no move to answer the door, knowing the maid would get it. When she heard a commotion, she went to the front of the house to see what was going on. When she saw an outraged Jefferey Parker, she took a deep breath and went to talk to him. Isabel had never cared for Arizona Parker, but she had downright hated Jefferey. The man had an arrogance to him that made her want to attack the man. He acted as if the world had owed him something. As if he were better then everyone. But she knew better.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Parker?" Isabel asked.

"Are your parents home, child?" he asked angrily.

"First of all, I am not a child. And secondly, they are not. They have gone for the day."

"Well, then, is your brother here?"

"What reason do you have with my brother?"

"I need to know if your brother is home."

"Why do you need to know that?"

"Look, Miss Evans. My daughter is missing. She assaulted me and ran off. She has money and her horse. I believe that her cousin went with her. I need to know if your brother is here."

Isabel narrowed her eyes and looked at him. "Fine. You wait here. I will go check."

Isabel turned on her heels and headed up the starirs to her brothers room. When she got there, she knocked and received no answer. She knocked again, but still no answer. Easing open the
door, she expected to see him still asleep in his bed. She was surprised when she saw his bed empty. She ran in the room to see if he was in his dressing area. It too was empty. Worried, she turned to leave his room when she saw an envelope with her name on it on his desk. She sat down and opened it.

Isabel,
Something is wrong with Arizona. She is in trouble Maria sent for me, and I have to go. I don't know where we are going. I will be int ouch as soon as I know more. Please, don't tell anyone. I am not sure what kind of trouble it is. Please, Isabel. Do this for me.
Love Max

Isabel folded the letter up and sighed. "Max, what have you done for that girl now?" she said to herself.

She stood up and straightened her dress. She went back downstairs to where Jefferey was waiting.

"Well?" He said.

Isabel took a deep breath and held her head up. "He is still sleeping in his bed, Mr. Parker. Now if that is all," She said, motioning him back towards the door.
Jefferey glared at the girl, trying to see if he could tell whether or not the girl was lying or not. Unable to distinguish, he turned and headed out the door. Turning back at the last minute, he walked up to Isabel and pointed his finger in her face. "For your sake and your brothers, you better be telling the truth, girl."

Not flinching at all, Isabel gritted her teeth. "It would be best of you to leave his property, Mr. Parker. NOW!" she said.

Jefferey turned and walked out the door. Isabel let out a deep breath. She leaned back against the wall. She hoped she was doing the right thing. For Max, and for Arizona. Something inside told her that Jefferey Parker was dangerous, and she wouldn't wish him on anybody. Isabel had an odd feeling that he would stop at nothing to find his daughter. "Max, wherever you are, I hope you know what you've gotten yourself into," she whispered. "And you better be careful."


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:06:39 AM

CHAPTER 5

Jeffeery Parker stormed into the front door of his home and slammed it shut behind him, causing the servant girls milling around in the front part of the house to go scurrying towards the kitchen. They knew better than to be around when Mr. Parker was mad. Because it was possible that the beatings that were inflicted on poor Arizona may one day be aimed at them.

He picked up the vase of flowers on the table at the bottom of the stairs and threw against the wall with a grunt. He laughed sarcastically as he watched the glass scatter across the floor. It had been very expensive. Probably more money than most people would spend on a piece of china. But Jefferey Parker wasn't most people. He had money. And lots of it. He could buy anything. Jewelry. China. Fine clothes. The best horses. But the one thing Jefferey Parker couldn't buy was the one thing he didn't have. A happy family. And it was all because of the girl.

And now she had run away. Left him for dead, and run. He knew that Maria had gone with her. He had gone to the Deluca home, and the servants had been instructed to keep the house clean until Ms. Deluca returned from her weekly trip in a day. Miss Maria had gone somewhere, but noone knew where. He knew, though. She was gone with his sorry excuse for a daughter. And now, he was sure she had gotten the Evans boy to go with her. He was almost positive Isabel Evans was lying. He saw her stop at the top of the steps and take a breath. Like she was getting ready for something. She was getting ready for something all right. Getting ready to lie to him about the whereabouts of her brother and his own daughter.

Jefferey made his way to the kitchen. If he was going to go after her, he needed all the strength he could muster. He had the cook make him a meal, and he ate in a hurry. Then he instructed to have some food for a couple day's packed and ready in an hour. He sent for Joseph to saddle his horse, Khivar, and he himself went upstairs to pack a bag. One hour later, he was ready to go out to the stables, when he heard it. It was raining. He threw his bag down and hit the door facing. Now he would have to wait until the rain was over. Khivar absolutely refused to run in the rain. It would be useless to take him out in it.



Dressed, changed, and having eaten some breakfast, Max, Liz, and Maria climbed on their horses and were back on their way. Max nor Maria knew where they were going, but Liz seemed to know exactly where she was going, so they followed her. Several times, Max made advances to talk with Liz, but each time, she wouldn't allow him. At first, he had been hurt, but now he was just mad. Frustrated. He was trying to apologize for being such a terrible friend, but she wasn't allowing him. And now it was making him more angry than anything.

After what seemed like about an hour, a storm had caught up with the three. Luckily, Maria had spotted what looked like a house in the trees, and they headed for it. When they got there, they saw that it was actually a small abandoned two room building with a fire place in the back room. They found what was left of an old stable and put the horsed in there to keep dry, and went back to the house. They decided to get some rest. Max tried two more times to speak to Liz, but two more times, she pushed him away. Finally, he got so frustrated that he went to sit in the front room, while Maria and Liz put pallets out in the back room and shut the door to lie down.

"Liz," Maria whispered. "He's trying. Just give him a chance."

"I can't," Liz whispered back. "I'm scared, Maria."

"Liz, he cares about you. He's your friend and he wants to apologize. Let him."

"What if I do? What if I let him back in and he hurts me again? What if he turns me away again when I need him the most? I don't know if I could take it again," Liz said. She tried to fight the tears that were welling up in her eyes.

"He won't Liz. Do you know that he dropped everything and came with us, and you wanna know why? Because he knew you were in trouble. He still cares, and he deserves an explanation. And I know that deep down, you still care too."

"No Maria, I don't," Liz said shakily.

"Well then, why do you still wear his ring around your neck?"

"Maria-how did you- I mean. I keep it hidden, how-"

"I saw it once. It slipped out of your neckline, and I saw it."

"Well, how did you know it was Max's? I never told anyone but Alex."

"I've seen it before. It belonged to Diane Evans."

Liz's eyes widened in surprise. "He gave me his mothers ring?"

"Yes he did. Because he cares, Liz. And if you don't go in there right now and talk to him, you will be making the biggest mistake of your life. Trust me, Liz. I have seen you two with each other and without. I won't make you guess which one was more pleasant."

Liz sunk down on the floor and leaned her head against the wall. Maria was right. Life had been a lot easier to deal with when Max had been a part of it. She had smiled a lot more, been happier a lot more. And now, it seemed like she was always miserable. But she knew that Max could change that. She sighed, and looked at Maria in defeat. Maria smiled at her and kissed her cheek.

"I won't wait for you," she said, knowing she had won yet another argument.

Liz stood up and walked to the door of the room where Max was. She took a deep breath, then held up her hand and knocked.


Max was sitting on an old wooden crate watching the rain through an opening in the front wall where a door had once hung. He was hurt, angry, and frustrated. Partly at himself, partly at Liz. But he was more angry than anything. He had felt so bad about what he had done her, and he had tried time and time again to apologize. What happened was in the past. Why couldn't she just leave it there? He guess it was because she was just too good for him now. Maybe Isabel was right. Arizona Parker was nothing but a snooty little rich girl. When he heard the door, he turned around, telling them to come in. He was sure it was Maria. When he saw who it was, he stood up, and couldn't help but stare. He tried to speak, but no words came out.

Liz stood in the doorway staring back. Part of her wanted to run to him. Part of her wanted to run away. She took another deep breath and stepped into the room, shutting the door behind her.

"Max, I-I just came to- I mean I just wanted to say. To tell you thanks."

"For what?"

"For last night. I really needed someone, and you were there. I was having a dream. About Alex." Liz put her head down and looked at the floor.

"Liz, I'm sorry. I-" Max took a step towards her, but her head shot up, and she stepped back from him.

Liz looked at him intently. Liz. She had waited so long to hear him say her name again. Granted, he hadn't called her Arizona. He only did that sometimes. But either way, she felt her heart speed up at the sound of his voice.

Max watched her and frowned. Was she purposely trying to play tricks on him? Coming in here to talk, then acting like she didn't want to be near him. What was wrong with her?

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"I just want to apologize. To say sorry for pushing you away."

‘Great,' Max thought. ‘Now she wants to be nice to me. I mean, sure I did her wrong, and I tried to make it right, but she wouldn't have it. Now it's convenient for her, so I'm supposed to forgive and forget?'

"Yeah, sure," he said.

"Yeah sure? That's all you have to say?"

"What do you want me to say, Liz?"
"I don't know. I thought maybe you'd apologize or something," she said.

"Oh I get it. You weren't ready before, but now you are, so I'm just supposed to apologize again, cause you said so? I tried that, remember, you didn't want to talk."

"No, Max. That's not what I meant."

"Well, then what did you mean? Did you mean you just want to forget? Go back to the way things were before? When we were friends? Forget any of this ever happened?" Max said angrily.

"Liz felt the tears stinging her eyes. This was not how it was supposed to happen. He was supposed to accept her apology. She was supposed to accept his. It wasn't happening that way.

Max watched the tears spring to her eyes, and realized his anger had gotten out of control. He had gone too far. She was reaching out to him. And now he was the one pushing her away. But it was too late to turn back now.

"I've got a good idea, Liz. Why don't you talk to me? Why don't you tell me why I'm here? Why we're running? Why I just up and left to come with you? Explain that to me. Or am I not good enough for an explanation from the famous Arizona Parker?" Max asked, his voice edgy still with his anger.

Liz looked up at him as the tears fell from her eyes. She had had enough.

"You want to know why we left Max?" She screamed. "This is why!" Liz reached to her sleeves and ripped the buttons off each one, pulling them up past her elbows. She held her arms out to Max so he could see the bruised and welts that she had spent 17 years trying to hide. "You happy now, Max? How about this?" She pulled up her dress and he could see even more bruises on her long slender legs. "But you know what? If that makes you happy, then you're gonna love this one. Wanna know why Jefferey Parker beats his daughter? Because she's not really his. That'
s right, Max. I'm not really a Parker. I'm not really a Parker. Name only." Liz threw her hands up in the air.

"That what you want to hear, Max?" She continued screaming. "Cause that's why I ran away. Because I don't know who I am or where my home is. Because I don't belong anywhere. But I had to go. Because if I didn't this time, Jefferey Parker wouldn't have stopped at bruises. He would have killed me. So you see, Max, it's not that I think you're not good enough for me," Liz sobbed, "Maybe it's that I think I'm not good enough for you."

With that, Liz pushed past Max and ran out into the rain.


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:07:33 AM

CHAPTER 6

Max was floored. He felt like his heart was being ripped out of his chest. He felt sick to his stomach when he had seen the bruises. His beautiful Arizona. With her flawless skin marred by those terrible marks. How could he have done this to her? Hurt her like that? Max felt every bit of anger and frustration he felt towards Liz melt away. In its place, he felt anger. Hatred and an unmistakable surge of rage. At the thought of Jefferey Parker hitting Liz. When his anger surged past, he was reminded of the pain in Liz's eyes, the heartbreak in her words, by the dull throbbing he felt at that place in his chest where he was sure his heart was supposed to be beating. All this time she had hidden it. Kept it all locked up inside of her. The death of her brother must have opened her up. He had to catch her. He had to. Turning on his heels, he ran out the door and went after her retreating figure.

Liz was running as fast as she could, but she was no match for Max. In a matter of seconds, he had caught her. He grabbed her shoulders, and they slipped in the mud and fell.

Liz pushed him backwards. "Leave me alone!" she shouted. She pushed herself back up and started to run again. Max ran after her once more.

"Liz!" he called out. "Liz! Please stop! Please! I'm sorry! Just stop!"

She kept running, but her dress caught on a tree, and once again, she tripped to the ground. Max fell to his knees at her side and reached out to her, but once again, she was fighting him.

"No,Max. Please! Leave me alone!" she cried.

"Liz! Stop it! I'm sorry Liz! I'm sorry. I din't know. If I had known, I would have- I just-"

"Why Max? Why me? Why does he hate me so much? It's not my fault. Why doesn't anyone love me?" she sobbed. She didn't wait for his answer, she just put her arms around her knees and rocked herself back and forth, crying in the pouring down rain. For the umpeenth time that day, Max felt his heart sink in his chest. He reached out and put his arms around her.

"Liz, it's gonna be okay. I am so sorry this happened to you, so sorry," he said. Max wasn't sure any more if it was rain or tears he felt running down his cheeks.

"Come on, we have to get out of the rain. We'll be sick," he said. He stood up and tried to pull Liz up with him, but her legs wouldn't hold her, and she started to tumble back to the ground. Max caught her, and scooped her small shaking body into his arms and carried her back to the cabin.

When he got to the cabin, Max walked into the front room and kicked the back door open with his foot. He came rushing into the room, and Maria jumped up.

"Omi gosh!! What's wrong? What happened? Is Liz okay? Are you okay?" Maria asked.
"Yes, Maria. She's fine. I'm fine. It's okay."

Max leaned down and put Liz on the floor. When he tried to go make a fire, Liz grabbed him when he tried to move his arms.

"No, Max. Please. Stay, don't leave me. I'm sorry. Please just don't go."

Max scooped her back up and sat down, putting her on his lap.

"Okay, Liz, I'll stay. I'm never leaving you again. I promise. I'm staying with you."

Liz put her head on Max's shoulder and wrapped her arms around her chest. For the first time in her life, Liz felt safe. As she cried, she started to shiver.

"Maria, We need a fire. Quick. She's freezing," Max said.

Maria started to build a fire in the fireplace with some wood she found in a corner. Max took off his jacket. He started to take the outer jacket from Liz's dress off, and when he did, he froze. There, hanging on a thin gold chain around her neck was the ring he had given her fro her 16th birthday. All this time she had kept it. Not only kept it, she had worn it. She had never stopped caring. And he had been so awful to her.

"Liz," he whispered in her ear. "I have to go get some dry clothes. Maria's going to stay with you. You'll be fine, okay? I'll be back."

Liz looked at him, her big brown eyes all red and swollen and nodded at him. Max felt that all too familiar pang in his chest that had come so many times in the last few minutes.

Max reached over and kissed her forehead, then put her in front of the fire. She curled up into a small ball and lay on the floor.

Max walked over to Maria. "Undress her. Keep her in front of the fire, and keep her warm."

If it had been any other situation, Maria would have flown off the handle at being ordered around. But the look in Max's eyes kept her temper from flaring. And the sight of Liz's shaking body curled up in front of the fire made her forget about being ordered instead of asked. She immediately snapped into action and started doing exactly what Max had told her.


Max ran from the small cabin to their horses in what was left of the barn. When he stepped in the door, he was greeted by Rath. The horse walked up the his master and nuzzled his head.

"Hey buddy!" Max said softly. "How ya doin? Ya wet?" Max quickly checked his horse, then Maria's and Liz's, to make sure they were al dry. Then he took their bags from the horses and ran back in.

Walking in the front, Max knocked lightly on the door.

"Here," he said opening it slightly and passing the girls bags inside. He was careful not to look. After all, he was a gentleman and Liz was a lady. He didn't want to compromise the situation.

"Ill be in here," he told Maria through the door.

Max shut the door behind him and started to change into some dry clothes. The whole time, he was berating himself for treating Liz so horribly. He couldn't imagine what she must have been going through. And now, with her brother gone, it must have gotten even worse. And he was partly to blame for it. And this whole time, she had held out hope. For him. Because she still had his ring around her neck. That was not just any ring. He could still remember the night his mother gave it to him. It had only been a week before he had given it to Liz.

*FLASHBACK*

"Max, honey, I want to give you something."

"Sure, mom what is it?" He went over to his mother and sat beside her. It was hers and his fathers anniversary, and she had been especially happy. But why was she giving him a present on her anniversary?

"When I met your father, we were only 10 years old, have I ever told you that?"

Max shook his head, so she went on. "We lived right next door to each other, and became pretty good friends. Soon, we were best friends. He gave me this ring for Christmas one year. Told me it was a friendship ring. And that I was his best friend. That was the day I realized I loved him. It was almost 5 more years before he wised up and fell in love with me too." Diane paused a moment to chuckle at the memory. "That's when he told me that he had bought the ring as an engagement ring that he was going to save until we were old enough. Can you imagine! I 15 year old boy buying an engagement ring. But he was so excited, he couldn't wait. So he told me it was a friendship ring and gave it to me. I haven't taken it off since."

Max was speechless. "Well, mother, why are you giving it to me?"

"Well, I just figured that you're getting older everyday. Soon, maybe you'll find that special girl to give it to. OR maybe you already have."

"Who are you talking about?"

"You know who I'm talking about, Max Evans. You can't fool your mother."

"Mom! Arizona is my friend! That is all!"
"If she's only your friend, then how did you know that's who I was talking about?" She asked, a twinkle in her eye.

"But mother-"

"Listen Max. It's yours. Your father gave it to me, and one day you will give it to someone special. Be it friendship or more. But this ring means a lot. It holds so much sentimental value. Make sure you don't give it to just anyone. Make sure she's special, Max. Special to your heart."


It was a week later he gave it to Arizona. He hadn't realized then how special she was.

Max was already dressed and was sitting on his milk crate when Maria came back softly into the room. She looked at Max who had his head between his knees.

"Max?" she asked quietly.

Without raising up, Max said, " Is she okay?"

"Yes. She's sleeping."

That's when Max raised his head, and Maria could see his eyes. They were swimming with emotion. Fear. Anger. Tenderness. And she saw a lone tear fall down his cheek.

"I'll kill him Maria. I'll kill him for what he's done to her."


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:08:09 AM

CHAPTER 7

Maria wanted to cry when she saw the look on Max's face. It was so many things, she didn't know how to describe it. But she knew that she couldn't lose it. Not right now. Liz and Max had some things they needed to get out. And it was time for them to face the storm. So she knew that she had to be strong for them. Because her friends needed her. She was glad at least that the worst part seemed to be over.

"Max, don't say things you don't mean," Maria said, quietly.

"I do mean it, Maria. I do. How could he have done that? What kind of a man does that make him?" Max asked.

"One that is far less then you are. Don't bring yourself to his level, Max. You must stay above him. Let it go. Help Liz get over it. We need you. Liz needs you."

Max shook his head. "Okay. I can get past it. But Maria, he better not ever find us...If he does..."

"He won't Max. We'll run. We'll be safe. We have each other. And plenty of money. We are going to be fine."


Maria reached over and put her hand on Max's shoulder, in gesture of support. Friendship. Reassurance.

Max looked up and smiled. "Thanks."

"Anytime, Max. That's what friends are for, right? Now I'm going to go in there and get some sleep while it is still raining. You do the same, okay?"

"Yeah. I will."

Two hours later, Liz woke up and for a second couldn't remember where she was. She squinted in the darkness, and the hard floor beneath her made it all come rushing back to her. She strained her ears to see if she could hear anything, but nothing could be heard except for the soft fall of the raindrops still coming down outside. She looked at Maria, still peacefully sleeping, and went to the door. She knocked softly, but got no answer, so she opened it. She felt a slight sense of panic when she saw the room is empty. Max should have been in there. She shut the door and was going to go out and see if his horse was there, but she was startled when a cloaked figure appeared in the doorway.

When he saw Liz, he stopped. He didn't want to scare her or make her run again. He stepped into the room, and stood there not moving a muscle.
Liz watched him for a second, then noticed he was standing there, his arms full of something. She rushed over to him.

"Here, let me help," she said. She reached out to him and when his arms opened, berries spilled out all over the floor. Liz laughed at Max's embarrassed expression, and they both bent down to pick up the runaway fruit.

"Where did you find this Max?" Liz asked, putting some of the berries in her mouth.

"Saw some bushes on the way here. Went back to get some. Looks like we'll be here the night. Doesn't look like this storm's gonna pass anytime soon."

Liz stood up and eyed Max suspiciously. "Can we talk, Max?" she asked nervously.

"Of course, Liz."

"I just wanted to apologize-"

"Liz, don't," Max said. "You have nothing to apologize for. I do. I am an awful friend. I am the one who messed up here. When you came to me that night, I had no idea why. I swear, Liz. If I had known, I would have let you in that night. I am so sorry," he said.

Liz looked up at Max and could see the sincerity in his eyes. "I know you are, Max. And I accept your apology. Thank you. And I'm sorry too. For pushing you away. I know you tried to make it right, and I just wasn't ready. I should have let you apologize."

"Liz. This isn't your fault," he said. Then he turned to her and asked her the question she had known would have eventually been asked. "Why didn't you tell me, Liz?"

Liz got up and started to walk out the door. Max followed her, sensing that she was thinking about what to say. "I was ashamed, Max. I was scared that you would hate me."

Max walked over to Liz and touched her hand. "Never Liz. I wouldn't be ashamed of you. And I could never, ever hate you. You know that right?"

Liz turned to look at Max, and for the second time in the last five minutes, she was caught up by the emotion she saw swimming in his eyes. She nodded at him and looped her arm through his. She walked with him to the edge of the porch, and sat down on the top step. They had walked like that so often when they were younger. It had been so long. She continued talking as they sat down.

"My brother was a little over a year old when my mother and father had a terrible fight. It was so bad that he took off and left. It was the first time she had ever been left alone. That's when it happened. She met someone. A man. She only remembers his name. Not where he's from, why he was here, nothing. John Ray. Passing through town. He came at her weakest time. Just showed up." Liz started to cry, and Max put his arm around her shoulders. He didn't say a word, he just wanted to listen to her. "It was a mistake, Max. A mistake. And I was the result."

Liz took a deep breath and went on.

"Father came back a few days later. My mom couldn't stand it. She told him, and he was furious, but he forgave her. Nine months later, I was born. They had gone to Arizona, to start a new railroad. That's where I was born, and that's how I got my name. but he knew I wasn't his. They both did. They hadn't been together for months after their fight. He was outraged. He hated me from the start."

"Liz, when did he start umm..." Max trailed off, not sure how to put his words.

"I don't know. It's been part of my life since before I can remember. I've spent my whole life trying to hide it. The bruises. The marks. He always told me that I was a mistake. That if I told anyone who I really was that they would hate me as much as he did. And I believed him. I was scared to death that noone would love me. All I had was Alex and Maria. They knew everything. Alex was my hero. I know that there were times if Alex hadn't been there, he would've killed me."

"What about your mother?" Max asked.

"I think she turned a blind eye to it. Soon after I was born, she kinda withdrew. Started getting worse and worse. At first it was little things. She would space out, forget where she was. It got worse with time. Now, she doesn't do anything. Just sits in front of a window and looks outside. But I don't blame her. Not one bit. It's my father. She loves him. She loves me. The pressure was too much to handle. She isn't as strong as I am. Alex and I were both stronger than she was."

"Why did you run Liz? I mean, why now? After all this time?"

"I came to tell him about Alex. He went crazy. I have never been more terrified in my life. I could see fire in his eyes and feel the ice in his words. He just started hitting me. I did the only thing I could. I took the poker from the fireplace and hit him. Then I just left him there. I knew I had to be gone by the time he woke up. I went to Maria, she went to you, and here we are. I am so sorry you got mixed up in this."

"I am the one that is so sorry, Liz. I don't know what else to say. I wish I could have been there for you," Max said. Then he put his head down, and realized what he had said. "I was a terrible friend. Terrible. But all I can say is that from now on, I WILL be there. Whenever you need me. Max Evans to the rescue," he said, pausing a moment to watch the corners of Liz's mouth turn up. It had been so long since he had put a smile on her face. "Can you ever forgive me?"

"Max," Liz said. "If there's one thing I have learned from this, it's that people should be forgiven for their mistakes."

Max took a deep breath. Deep down, he already knew she would forgive him. That was just...her. "She hated you, you know."

"Who hated me?"

"Pam. She despised you. I was so infatuated with her. Before I knew it, we were engaged, and planning a wedding. It was so fast. I was so stupid, Liz. I can't believe I chose her over you. Of all people. Pam Troy is a snake in the grass. She will she snuck up on me and bit before I had a chance to run. She almost ruined my life."

"How did she almost ruin your life?"

Max took a deep breath. "Because. She almost cost me my best friend in the whole world. The most important person in my life except for family. She almost cost me you."

Liz looked at Max, her eyes sparkling. "Max Evans, we sure do have a lot of catching up to do, don't we?"

In that instant, everything between them disappeared. Two people became friends. Again. Best friends. Forigiving all the wrongs that had been done in the past.

Max couldn't help but smile back. "That we do, Arizona Parker," he said. "That we do."


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:08:57 AM

CHAPTER 8

A few hours later, it was still raining and it had gotten a lot darker. They decided to stay in the small shack until morning.

Sometime during the night, Maria woke up and noticed she was still alone in the small room. She got up quietly and went to check and make sure the Liz and Max hadn't killed each other. She walked to the door, and stopped when she hear voices. She thought she heard Liz laughing, but she couldn't be sure. She turned the doorknob and opened the door as quietly as she could. She saw Liz and Max, still on the front porch, talking and laughing quietly. Both of them had smile on their faces she hadn't seen in a long time. Smiling to herself, she shut the door and laid back down. It was about time those two kissed and made up. Then she giggle to herself and put her hand over her mouth so Liz and Max wouldn't hear her. Well, maybe they hadn't gotten to the kissing part yet, but they would soon. And if they didn't on their own, she would have to give them a little push in the right direction.


Max and Liz had been talking for about an hour. Neither one of them was surprised at the ease with which they were able to slip right back into their old friendship. It was like nothing had ever changed. They spent the time filling each other in on what had happened in their lives since they had last spoken. For the first time since he died, Liz was able to talk about Alex with a smile, no tears. She and Max were reminiscing about the time Alex had gotten them out of trouble with Isabel.

Loz closed her eyes and could remember it like it was yesterday. She was sure she was in for it. But Alex had saved the day.

FLASHBACK

"Arizona Parker! You better get back here right this minute!"

"Oh no, Max, you've got to catch me first!"

Jefferey Parker was throwing his annual Christmas Ball. Max and Liz had gotten bored at the party, and had slipped away to play hide and seek in the upstairs part of the house. When she was supposed to be hiding, Liz had slipped downstairs, which was against their made up rules, to get a cup of the dark burgundy cranberry punch. Max had caught her, and now they were running into and around the guests downstairs, Max hot on Liz's heels. Liz ran and ran, and did ‘t stop until she was stopped. By someone else's body. Whose dress was now covered in dark red stains.
Isabel's hands clenched into fists so tight, her knuckles turned white. Her breathing became ragged, and her eyes were nothing short of spewing fire as she glared back and forth between her brother and Liz. She turned to look at the stains on her dress, and the unsuccessfully hidden smiles on their faces made her even madder.
"Arizona Parker, you will pay for this! Look at my dress! It's ruined!"

"Isabel, it was an accident. She didn't mean to, we were just-"

"Max, I will deal with you when I get home! As for you- you- you- horrible child! When I tell your father, you will be in big trouble!"

"Ahem."

Isabel flipped around to see who it was, and nearly died of embarrassment. Alexander Whitman. The most sought after boy in Sheldon, probably even Texas. And he had just caught her hollering at his little sister.

"Good Evening, Miss Evans," he said, bowing slightly in her direction.

"Hello, Alex. How are you?" Isabel managed.

Alex looked at Isabel's dress, then at Max and Liz, noticing the horrified looks on their faces. They knew they were in for trouble. With a sparkle in his eye, he held his arm out to Isabel.

"I was just thinking of going out for some fresh air. It's rather stuffy in here. Care to join me, Isabel?"

Liz beamed from ear to ear when Isabel took Alex's arm. He was going to get her out of trouble!! As Alex led her down the hallway, she turned to glare once more at Liz and Max. Alex turned to say something to her, and Isabel had no choice but to save face and smile cheerfully back. Max and Liz breathed a deep sigh of relief, then had to laugh. Pretty, prissy little Miss Perfect Isabel Evans. Walking through the Parker Christmas party in a long flowing dress complete with big red spots. It was definitely a sight to see.

Max and Liz finished laughing at her and took off running once again




"That was pretty funny," Liz said. "Alex made me listen to him practicing on his guitar every night for the next week because he had talked her out of being mad at you," Liz said. Then she mad a funny face. "Now that was horrible!"

Max laughed at Liz. "He was a great guy, Liz. I'm sorry he's gone." Max said seriously.

"Me too, Max. And thank you. ?"

Max smiled at her, and put his hand on her shoulder in a show of support. She smiled back gratefully.

After a minute, Liz broke the silence. "Max, can I ask you something?"

"Yes, Liz. Of course."

"It's about Pam. It's okay if you don't want to answer. But, why didn't it work out between you two. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad you didn't marry her, but why didn't your plans go through?"

Max thought it was odd that the thought of Arizona being glad he didn't get married made him all giddy inside. He smiled at her. "Because, Maria beat me up one day. She fussed at me and told me that If I married her, I'd be making the biggest mistake of my life."

"Why?"

"Her nose was big." Max said, without cracking a smile.

Liz cracked up laughing. "That's why you didn't marry her?"

"Not really," Max said, smiling. " I didn't marry her because I realized my heart belonged to someone else. Someone I've loved all my life."

Liz kept a smile on her face, but inside she wanted to cry. Max loved someone else. Liz imagined her being beautiful, tall, and elegant, with blond hair, and eyes that made the men around her swoon. Kind of like Isabel.

"Oh," she said.

Max smiled. He couldn't tell her yet. She might run away from him again. And he couldn't handle that.

"Liz, where are we going? Where are we running to? What are we gonna do when we get there?"

"I don't know what we'll do, Max. But I know one thing. We're going to Dallas."

Max nodded. Dallas . Of course. She had been there once before. And it was the place Alex was named after.

"Come on," he said, standing up and offering her his hand. "We better get some sleep."

They walked inside, and Max walked Liz to the door of the small back room. He leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"Good night, Arizona," he whispered.
"Good night, Max." She watched him walk away, then she shut the door and laid down to sleep.


The next morning, Jefferey Parker rose up with a start. He had been up all night waiting for the storm to pass. He had gone over maps and marked all of the surrounding cities. He would ride to each one, checking to see if Arizona was there. Someone somewhere would know her. And three kids riding into town would definitely be noticed. She would slip up, eventually. Arizona was a smart girl. She could change her name, her appearance, anything. But she couldn't hid from him forever.

He went out to the stables and mounted his horse. He was going to find her. And she would be punished. Noone crossed Jefferey Parker and got away with it. No one.


Down the street, at the Evans home, Isabel Evans paced nervously. When her parents arrived home, they had asked about Max. Unable to lie to them, and unable to hide her nervousness, she had told them the truth. That he had left with Liz because she was in some kind of trouble. And that Maria had gone with them. When asked, she told them that she didn't know what kind of trouble she was in, but that she believed it had something to do with Jefferey Parker. Shocking her, the Evans didn't get mad. They just said a prayer for Max and his friends. And even more surprising, was the fact that Diane Evans didn't even seem surprised. It was almost like she had expected it.


posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:09:33 AM

CHAPTER 9

Knock, Knock

"Come in!"

Isabel reached for the door handle and opened the door to her mother's library.

"Isabel, darling, what's wrong? Are you ill?"

"Not really. I'm just well, I guess I'm a little confused."

"What about?"

"It's about Max. And Liz. When I told you and dad yesterday, you didn't seem as surprised as he did. You were actually rather calm about it. And to think I debated telling you. Did you know about this little trip?"

Diane Evans smiled at her daughter. "Of course not. I knew nothing about the trip. But you are right. I am not surprised."

"I don't understand."

"Liz Parker is a very special girl. She has a presence about her that pulls people in. It pulled our Max in the first day they met all those years ago. When they were just children. I saw it before they did. He loves her. "

"How did you know?" Isabel asked, still quite confused.

"Call it a mother's intuition. I could tell by the way they look at each other. Those two share something that will never change. Not even with your brother's engagement and wedding plans. You see where he ended up don't you? Right where he started. With Liz. Those two share something rare. Max would do anything for her. And I could tell that one day, she would ask for his help."

"What kind of help?"

"I'm not quite sure. But there is much more to Arizona Parker than you or I could ever know. Her life isn't all that it seems. Her eyes give her away. Somewhere deep down inside of her is a very sad girl. And I knew that one day, Max would help her through whatever it was that made her so sad. Looks like I was right."

"Mother, What do you think it is?"
"Isabel, I can't say for sure. But I believe it has something to do with her father. I don't trust the man as far as I can throw him. He too has a presence about him. But his does not pull you in. It makes you want to run as fast as you can in the other direction."

"He's evil. He's a heartless man, and I never have liked him. I wish we knew what it was she was running from."

"I have a very bad feeling. Isabel, did you ever notice that she always wore long sleeves? Even in the summertime. It would be the hottest day of the year out, and she would have on long sleeves. I saw her once. In the fields by the lake. She was crying, and her face was red, and she looked like she'd been, well, like she'd been hit."

"Mother!" Isabel said, her eyes filling up with tears. "You don't think he-he hurts her? We have to go after them. We have to save them from Jefferey!" Isabel could feel all the dislike and jealousy she felt towards Liz slipping away. In its place was sorrow. Guilt. Fear. For the first time in her life, Isabel was scared about the well being of Arizona Parker.

Diane Evans reached over and grabbed her daughter into a hug. "It's okay, Isabel. They will be all right. All of them. I have faith in your brother. Love can make people do funny things. It can make them stronger than they ever imagined. And I believe the love that your brother feels for that girl is strong enough to move mountains. Jefferey Parker doesn't stand a chance against it."






When Liz woke up, she felt like she had slept better then she had in a long time. She was happy, and woke up with a smile on her face. Maria was already up, and was looking at Liz with a smug look on her face.

"What?" Liz asked.
"So, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I saw you and Max attached at the hip out there on that porch. And by the smile I see that's blinding my eyes, I take it somebody had a good time last night?"

"You got me. We talked. A lot. We got some things straight. We're okay, now."

"So," Maria asked. "Did he profess his undying love to you yet?"

Liz looked at Maria with a funny look, and all the suspicions Maria had been harboring were true. She had feelings for Max. Maria was instantly sorry she had said anything when she saw Liz's eyes all but cloud over with tears.

"Liz, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's okay, Maria. You didn't. But I can tell you. He doesn't love me, Maria," Liz said, her voice breaking. "I am so in love with him it hurts. Have been for so long. And he loves someone else. I waited to long. I should have told him."

Maria sighed. So Max must have told her there was someone else. Who in the world could it be? Since he and Liz stopped being friends, the only person she had ever seen him with when he wasn't with her was his sister. In fact, she had never seen with another girl at all. There was something going on here. And she was more than willing to bet that Max wasn't telling the whole truth. She would get to the bottom of it.

"Liz, no tears, you hear? We will settle this Max thing. I don't want you crying over him, okay? Just be friends. You two deserve that much!"

Liz smiled at her cousin. IT was going to be difficult to be sad around Maria. She was way to bossy to let anyone be unhappy. And if you weren't happy after a some time with her, you would at least be so mad at her for being so bossy that you would forget about not being happy.

When Maria and Liz knocked on the door, they got no answer. They wanted to find a place to wash up, and they didn't want to get into the room and catch Max in an embarassing situation. They opened the door, and saw that Max wasn't there. He must be up already. They went outside, and walked around in the woods until they found a small stream that looked barely more than a trickle. They decided it was better than nothing, and used it to clean themselves up and walked back to the shack. When they got there, Max had the horses out of the barn and ready to go. He had packed the girls things and tied them to their horses.

Max heard the girls walk up behind him. "Hey, you two," he said. "I was about to come looking for you. I went to get some breakfast. Help yourself," he said, motioning to a sack sitting on the porch.

When Liz opened, she looked at Max excitedly. "Max Evans! Where did you get fresh croissants? And there is bacon in here! Where did you go?"

"I was looking for some fruit this morning, near the road a little ways back when a man came through on his way out of town. I told him my father and I had gotten lost, and that we didn't have any food. He sold me some, then gave me directions to the nearest town."

Maria and Liz ate breakfast, then got ready to leave. They all got onto their horses and started off down the road. They made sure to stay in the treeline so that if anyone came by, they could hide quickly if needed. They had only been gone for a few days. But already, having known each other practically all their lives, having such strong bonds of friendship between them, and the fact that they had been together 24/7 since they left Sheldon made the trip an easy one. They were able to travel with no words, making the going a lot faster. If whoever was in the lead got tired, someone else would simply step their horse up, and take their place. It wasn't long before they reached the town the man Max had met was talking about.
They three friends looked at each other, and wondered what to do now.

"I think we should stay a while. At least a day. We are all exhausted. We need some good rest. In a bed. Some good food. We can't keep going non stop."

Max and Maria looked at Liz. Both of them had wanted to suggest staying, but neither one of them wanted to suggest it if it would make Liz uncomfortable. They wanted her to feel safe, and she felt she had to keep running, then they would. But Liz was the one that wanted to stay.

"Liz, are you sure?" Max asked.

"Yes. I'm sure. I want to stay. But please, we have to be careful. We can't say anything. Someone here might know me."

"We'll be careful," Maria said. "And we won't separate. For anything."

Maria and Liz turned their horses to follow Max into town.

posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:10:11 AM

CHAPTER 10

As they rode into the town, Liz riding between Maria and Max, all three teenagers were swirling with emotion inside.

Max was being very cautious. He wasn't sure about staying in town overnight, with them only being a couple days ride from Sheldon. But they had passed several towns since leaving home, and surely noone here would know them. All he wanted to do was make sure Maria and especially Liz were safe.

Liz was terrified. She knew that she had to get some rest. And if their poor horses didn't get a full days rest, they might give out on them. She was scared to death that someone here would recognize her. She wasn't sure if she was far enough away from home. But at least she had Maria. And Max. And that was her only source of comfort.

Maria was nothing but angry. She could see the rigidness in Liz's posture and knew that she was scared. And she could be nothing but angry at Jefferey Parker for forcing her into this position, and for putting fear into the life of her cousin.

As the townspeople watched, they saw three teenagers riding into town in the middle of the day. Nothing unusual. This town caught a lot of passers-through. It was, after all, the last big town before Dallas. Nothing but small towns and woods and plains until then. But the really odd thing about them was what they were wearing. They weren't your run of the mill average wanderers. These kids were dressed like they were worth millions. And people like that don't just come through Summit City.

As he stepped outside for some fresh air, Michael Guerin was transifxed by what he saw before him. There was a man riding through town being followed by two women he had never seen. One of them, looking vaguely familiar, had long dark hair and deep brown eyes. She held her head high and her back tall as if she was someone of importance. Her dress was a pale yellow color, with lace adorning every edge. The had that was resting on her back looked as if it had been made to match perfectly. She looked prim and proper. She looked like royalty.

But what really caught his eye was the flaxen-haired beauty that followed her. She was following the girl closely and kept looking around her as if she was mad. Actually, she did look mad. She had a permanent frown on her face. But her eyes. They were absolutely gorgeous. She was wearing a dress of a deep jade color. It had lace the very same color adorning every edge, and it looked almost like the one her friend was wearing, but it wasn't nearly as expensive looking. But it was still expensive. Her eyes seemed to match the color perfectly. They were green and large and sparkling. Suddenly, he felt the urge to get closer to her. To look at her eyes from right in front of her. He could only hope that they were staying in town.

As she rode, Maria noticed a figure step outside. She couldn't see much about him, the brim of his hat was hiding his eyes. He was tall and slender, muscular, with blond hair that was sort of shaggy and long. She could tell by his posture that he was watching her. She looked at him and frowned. ‘Did he recognize Liz?' She tried to read his face, but was unable to read anything in the shadow of his hat. She made a mental note to watch him and see what he would do.


Max stopped his horse in front of the Inn, and hopped to the ground. As Liz and Maria did the same, he walked to each one and helped them down. Together, they walked to edge of the building and stopped to look around. By now, most everyone had gone back to their daily business. The excitement was over. Three rich-looking people were in town. There was nothing more to know or see.

"I'll go in. Two rooms. One for me, one for you two. But I will be right next door. If anything happens, I'll be right there," Max said.

"It's okay, Max. I think we can let down our guard a little. I don't think anyone here recognizes me. We're gonna be fine," Liz said, offering him a reassuring smile. Max looked around again, then went inside.

Maria watched Liz. It was a wonder what being away from Sheldon and Jefferey had done for Liz. She looked different. She looked well, alive. "So, I am starved. And I want some real food. I sure hope there is somewhere to buy a good meal around here!" Maria said.

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